Cactus, by Marvel Chukwudi Pephel

“I am Cactus.

I prick when you carelessly touch me,

When you try to abuse my existence.

I am curvy

&

Sexy

&

Amazing,

Something not everyone knows how to handle.”

      (For women who experience abuse in its varied shades).

..

Marvel Chukwudi Pephel is a prolific Nigerian writer who writes poems, short stories and other things besides. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in High Coupe, The Avocet, The Kalahari Review, Praxis Magazine for Arts and Literature, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, Poetry Tree on the Charles, Pyrokinection, Jellyfish Whispers, I Am Not a Silent Poet, African Writer, The Naked Convos, PIN Quarterly Journal, amongst others. His poetry was selected for the 2016 Best New African Poets 2016 Anthology. He is currently a two-time winner of the Creative Writing Ink Competition (Ireland).

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Young Carer, by Miki Byrne

Megan does the washing and gets her own tea.
Makes Mum a cuppa when she needs.
Dad went away when Mum was diagnosed
and Megan misses him.
Tells her little brother what he was like.
At parent’s evenings teachers wonder
why they don’t see someone for Megan.
Pass comment on how tired she is
and sloppy with her homework.
Megan tries to work.
Clears the kitchen table but has to wash up first,
do laundry, help Mum to the bathroom .
Megan doesn’t get pocket money.
Mum’s disability benefit doesn’t stretch far.
On Saturdays Megan doesn’t play out,
or go to the park.
She has no dance class, swimming.
Only the TV for after school.
She does little any other twelve year old would do.
Megan works hard because Mum has MS
and Megan loves her Mum.

Good Men, by Miki Byrne

Good men do nothing.
While the welfare state crumbles
and politics drive wedges into life.
Good men stay silent whilst war-babies
crawl screaming  to our shores.
Then pry away their needy infant hands
because that is what voters want.
Good men turn away
when ex-servicemen sit homeless
in the streets and thousands
of disabled die from cruel assessments,
attempts to starve them back to work.
Good men wear good faces when the
mentally ill are stigmatised,
refugees demonised and neighbours
must use food banks to survive.
Good men agree to zero-hour contracts,
foster insecurity, fear of illness, absence.
Allow bosses to become overseers
and resurrect  Victorian values
that punish and demean.
Good men don’t rock the boat, even if
it’s called injustice and carries a cargo of greed.
When good men finally act,
when societies failures landslide
and push them against spiked walls,
it will be too late.
Evil is here and good men watched it
walk right in.

Mightier, by Andrew Velzian

We cried with loss      with rage      with gas

and asked                   to be treated

as humans

from those whose hate

……………saturates

their mind and their voice

no choice                    they claim

our land and our farms

with their homemade laws

the scales and the sword.

Stolen, by Mohamed Sahafi

They had stolen
All
Your
Fundamental rights
And
They want you
To give them
Flowers.

..

Traducción Mohamed Khattabi:

Han robado
Todos tus
Derechos básicos
y quieren
que les regales
Flores

..

ترجمة : عبدالإله صحافي

سرقوا
كل
حقوقك الأساسية
و
يريدونك
أن تُقَدَّم لهم
الأزهار.

Popper King, by Michael Peck

he was a Popper King
rising to power
on secondhand ideas
the people were tired of
the last leader’s promises
the continued suffering
of those in need
the total lack
of any meaningful change
the new man
it seems it’s almost always
a man
dressed up yesterday’s ideas
in a different color
made enforcement stricter
gave the police more power
in the ruling class
smiled knowingly
while the people
continue to wait
and suffer in silence

New Meaning, by Michael Peck

he brings new meaning
to the bully pulpit
fulfilling those inelegant words
completely
laughing oblivious of the pain
he causes to those
he’s unaware of
those who do not have value
to him
he likes to condemn, demand
but his soft skin
so easily hurt
cannot accept
Advice or criticism
preferring the well rehearsed stroke
the paid for beauty
on the various women
of the night

Blister Chesterfield, by Rick Dove

sore these eyes,
watching
a predominantly white
audience,
and predominantly white
panel,
discussing the betrayal
of the Windrush generation,
and their children,
on late night television,
via the BBC’s (and therefore the U.K.’s)
de facto flagship politico show

sore these eyes,
red raw, reminded
of all those times
I was the only black man
in the room,
at a flagship British university,
at a British book fair,
at my British book launch,
in inner city south London,
where I was born,
as I finally realise
what it is
to really feel,
these accidents of birth,
realise
why representation matters,
realise
why they listed us with dogs,
realise
what really happens
to the robots,
when the tokens
for the metre
run out…

sore these eyes,
rubbed raw
by colourblind whataboutisms
of EU nationals,
abhorred by the false equivalencies
of the Brexit petty
point scoring
as they shout,
as people die.

and I wonder
what new dis is this?
disengaged,
disingenuous,
disenfranchised,
or dismissed?

they will, of course,
say later
that the audience
was invited already,
that the panel
were invited already,
that a week
is a long time
in politics,
there wasn’t enough time,
to avoid these “bad optics”
that make these eyes
of mine
so sore…

But you had 70 years
I’ll say,
from 1948
nearly 50 years, to the day,
from rivers of blood
I’ll say,
how much time do you need,
to get better representation,
on the nation’s
flagship political programme,
discussing deportations,
misplaced citizenships,
and “Go Home” vans,
how much time
do you need then
for discussing
what should be done,
about my mum
and dad,
and so many like them,
and decide for them
without them?

And so please, Mr boomer man,
tell me again
how any of this,
is a sign
of political correctness,
gone mad,
I dare you,
tell me again,
better yet
tell it to my dying dad
I dare you.

Dichotomy / as an / example of largesse, by Mark Young

a gadget on the market is a
crucial resource for understanding
but doesn’t exist as a legal entity

a sheet of bubble wrap is
hard-wired for optimism
which is why it goes pop

the feel-good buzz that comes
from an impulse buy is sharply
drawn in feminist literature

the world as we know it risks
exposure to liability for negligent
hiring whose fulcrum is marriage

the church can be held liable
for technology getting in the
way of face-to-face interactions

Fly the flag at half-staff, by Marvel Chukwudi Pephel

Because today I have drunk the ocean
And I am leaking from everywhere,
Especially my eyes —
And there is no reservoir to fetch me.
I may leak to death,
I may become a desert with dry bones —
The only oasis you may find will be my eyes
Because my lachrymal glands will still continue to leak.
Will still continue to leak even after this sad day
Goes down in the pages of history.

Fly the flag at half-staff,
For the world is drunk with the ocean of grief —
And we are leaking and leaking and asking:
“How long shall the sun be fed with unwanted bloods?”

       (For victims of the massacres in Benue State, Nigeria).

 

Marvel Chukwudi Pephel is a prolific Nigerian writer who writes poems, short stories and other things besides. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New African Poets 2016 Anthology, Jellyfish Whispers, High Coupe, Praxis Magazine for Arts and Literature, The Avocet, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Pyrokinection, The Kalahari Review, African Writer, The Naked Convos, PIN Quarterly Journal, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, amongst others. He was shortlisted for the 2016 Quality Poets Competition. He is currently a two-time winner of the Creative Writing Ink Competition (Ireland).

Normalists, by Marizela Ríos Toledo, translated by Yolanda Duque Vidal

They are students.
  ..
Bodies and faces that still outline in the sweetness of twilights
of their hills
Avid meat with brief doses of audacious epiphany
in the age of the innocence of their nature without wrinkles.
  ..
With stridency
the bronze kills the sparkling alchemy of their paradises
Their true self
Their freedom!
The needs of reconcile with the close gold of their dreams.
..
Today they are not having the presence of matter in social statistics.
Their heads
skyscrapers of unexplored adventures
they have lost the compass of the world!
the extremes of the history and their transformations
the embrace with their cardinal’s points.
  ..
They was been killed without reason
They was been heartless in their eyes and their tongues
They was been dehumanized them from their collective heritage
From their unique love!
..
Forty-three hypothetical homicides
they were committed by the carnal servitude.
The false justice!
..
Forty-three times they covered with obstacles
each delivery of hesitations

Collapsed, by Marizela Ríos Toledo

In the rubble
we look for each other without explanations
we are almost dead
in the time inside and outside, subordinated
glimpsing the advantages
raw of pain, fed up with putrefy
In the descent of the air, we are exiled
  ..
Life dies in the mouths that pray dust
The tears are translucent blood
..they become stone
..fog
Hammering
..
Without sense,
we make an shrine
to the coffee maker or a shoe
and of one conjecture,
we formulate nostalgias
..
… “Why I didn’t love you before?” …
… “It would be good to know that you still breathe” …
… “we need you” …
“… tomorrow the world is nothing without you ” …

(Ah, craven)
Futile is your compassion!
  ..
You buried, intensify your pain
You fill me with your fright
your fingers are impossible handcuffs
you urinated on your psalms
and you’re wet until the next collapse
in the hell.
  ..
My pupils go through the gaps that stagnate
in your dark circles
…………………….in the shroud of your face …
  ..
And I don’t know what to say about the damned tuning fork
that plunges my head into another hell!
  ..
Fears stir us up
we swallow them with nausea
with empty breath
with hungry in the brain.
..
…You lost me…
..
…………………………….I have lost you…
..
No! … Another lie!
We are almost dead between two impacts!
  ..
Your throat is made pothole
and you do not breathe
the mud on my back becomes a grave
beyond the steam that escapes from that coffee machine
without knowing who we are
before the calendar celebrates the heroism.
..
We are other animals
the night hits us all day long!
the words are ashes
we groan, they meow, I bark then
like them, like the others.
Without being any, without knowing for where
we go back to the beginning …
  ..
…………………………………………to the belly, or to nothing.
..
…YOU LOST ME…

…………………………………I HAVE LOST YOU.

 

MARIZELA RÍOS TOLEDO (Juchitán de Zaragoza Oaxaca, México. Titulada en la carrera de Lengua y Literatura Españolas con Especialidad en Competencias Docentes emitida por la UPN Ha publicado los libros de poemas: Especialista  en Soledades Edit. Praxis (1999), Porque nací del sur Edit. Praxis (2000). Obra suya ha sido compilada en la Antología Letras Mexicanas (2001) y (2004) Edit. Abrace, Montevideo Uruguay, En las memorias del Encuentro de Poesía Nicanor de la Fuente de Chiclayo, Perú (2002)..En la Antología: Canto a una ciudad en el desierto, Edit. La Cuadrilla de la langosta.  Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua (1998-2002) En la Antología Mujeres Poetas en el País de las Nubes. (2002). En el tomo de Pícaras de la Trilogía Poética de las Mujeres en Hispanoamérica, Edit. La Cuadrilla de la langosta. (2004). Antología Voces sin fronteras. Èditions Alondras Montreal Canadá 2006. En antología “Al filo del gozo” 2006 y  en las revistas literarias: Oráculo (2002), Generación (2001), Alforja de poesía  (2002), Rehiletes de la Cd. de México. Olandina, Chiclayo Perú (2002); Bruegel de Cd. Juárez Chihuahua (2002). Luces y Sombras de Tafalla, Navarra (2003). Letras Salvajes (2004). Cipactli de arte y cultura del Estado de México. En la Revista digital Nocturnario (2015) entre otras. Antologada y participante en el Primer Encuentro Internacional de Poetas “Grito de Mujer” en Madrid España. (2016) Participó en el Primer Encuentro Internacional de Poetas del Mundo. (“Miembro ID: 9158) en la República Bolivariana de Venezuela Junio del 2016, participante en el “V Maratón Nacional de Poesía” en Jalapa Veracruz  2016 y en octubre en el Encuentro Internacional de Poesía  en la República de Chile “Tras las Huellas del Poeta,” En la actualidad su tercer libro de poemas “AD LIBITUM” Edit. Praxis 2015, se está presentando en diferentes espacios para su difusión. El 21 de Febrero de 2017 presentó su libro de poemas AD LIBITUM en El Centro de Creación Literaria Javier Villaurrutia INBA-CONACULTA. Participó en el 4º Festival Internacional De Poesía en Marrakech, Abril 2017, Presentación poético musical del libro “Ad Libitum” en el “Museo Espacio” en la ciudad de Aguascalientes Ags. en el mes de mayo del 2017. Antologada en Mujeres Poetas en el País de las Nubes 2017.Compilada en la Antología Poetry Road Anthology Poets Of The World 2017.Participante en el VI Festival Maratón de Poesía en Xalapa Veracruz 2017.

Eulogy, by Jennifer Lagier

It’s been a year of loss, betrayal,
massive upheaval—cancerous mom
wasted to death, husband’s addiction,
extended family stressed, torn asunder.

For decades, I’ve hidden inside
a bubble-wrapped fantasy
of perfect parents, stable life,
tasteful home, successful career.

The past months have brutally
torn away every dreamy illusion,
ground my nose into the dirt
of terminal illness, fracturing marriage.

Now spring brings peace,
downsized expectations,
change of residence,
charming picket fence cottage.

Here’s the new foundation
upon which I will rebuild,
welcome serenity,
realistic existence.

Hang ‘Em High, by Jennifer Lagier

“When people show you who they are, believe them.” – Maya Angelou 

Conservative white male outrage
boils over at the thought of women
in control of their own minds,
bodies, potential.

An Atlantic columnist opines
that those who have abortions
are murderers, should be executed
by public hanging.

Misogyny burgeons
in a country that places
sexual predators
at the helm as leaders.

Sisters gather, organize
vow “No more!”
support female representatives
in record numbers.

 

Jennifer Lagier has published fourteen books, co-edits the Homestead Review, helps coordinate Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium readings. Newest books: Scene of the Crime (Evening Street Press), Harbingers (Blue Light Press), Camille Abroad (FutureCycle Press), Like a B Movie (FutureCycle Press). Forthcoming: Camille Mobilizes (Dec. 2018), (FutureCycle Press, 2018). Website: jlagier.net

Variations of hurt by Csilla Toldy

I.

I used to be extra large;
I could have rolled around the world in two minutes.
Exaggerating apart, I was hungry, all the time.
I ate my skin and nails, scratched the wounds till they bled.
My skin stretched,
No fat of the world could protect
my heart that I wore on my sleeve exposed.

 

2.

Today, after years of starving
I could die, but I stay, just to hurt
you with my hard bones that will
soon bite through the skin.
I capture you with my
jaw
breaker
and protruding eyes, my
head carefully balanced
on the stick man legs.
I’m perfect –
and this is
your
punishment.

 

3.

When I was twice my present size,
I was your big, battered celebrity punchbag.
You knew everything but nothing about me.
The pain was real and binding; we were
married to my mistaken identity.
Now I enjoy
that in my role
my core is visible,
just under the surface,
no need to hit and miss,
it’s there in reaching distance.
I offer you ultimate intimacy –
we could make love,
if you dared.

 

This poem was first published in Red Roots – Orange Sky – Csilla has two more poetry books with Lapwing Publications Belfast. They are available from www.csillatoldy.co.uk

Tonight There are no Lights in Gaza, by Rang-Zeb Rango Hussain

Gaza - Rango

Tonight…
..
A child clings to the cold chest of his mother,
A brother sees his sister crushed in death’s sleep,
..
Tonight…

A city is shelled from morning till the dead of night,
A nation is hit hard from high in the burning sky,
..
Tonight…
..
A desert family is decimated beyond all measure of hope,
A sound pierces through the hearts of those deep in grief,
..
Tonight…
..
The Lord of All knows,
The mother of a dead child knows…

Teleology, by Jonathan Taylor

The refugees from an Apocalypse yet to happen
are flooding through the time-gate in bloodied rags,

marked by the Antichrist, trembling from earthquakes,
scorched by stars and planets crashing to earth,
chewed and spat out by dragons with various heads,
nibbled by locusts.

Tens of thousands have already perished en route
and most who reach their past are denied sanctuary:
after all, it’s their fault they weren’t among the Elect.
The future can hardly be blamed on us, can it?

A select few we save, those who bring with them
knowledge of soon-to-be-discovered technologies,
oh, and the plumbers.

The others – the godless, hairdressers, authors –
are shoved back,
whingeing they can’t win on either side of history.

Afterwards, if you press your ear against the door
and listen carefully, I have heard it said,
you can hear the trumpets, distantly, from the other side.

 

 

Jonathan Taylor is an author, lecturer, editor and critic. This poem features in his forthcoming poetry collection, Cassandra Complex, which explores ideas of prophecy, and which will be published by Shoestring Press in Summer 2018.

Dedication on the Occasion of the Next War and Its Memorial, by Red Slider

This bell has but one tone
rung over the heads of tourists
on the village spread below in brown
patois, an even sound to draw them on
their somnambulant intent.

Where they go,
(they go bent under the weight of slow sand)

they go oblivious
of wheat underfoot

they repeat
the shuffle of
old men ground
at the mill, they stack
their faces rolled thin
and various.

On occasion one will remark
It has been a load, Sam.
There is that to be said,
steadfast and reliable until it was past time,
when the overdo-ness of it finally sunk in
and the one would lay down

and the next,
but we need not repeat
the ring will hammer
thin sheets of twilight
into hope

hard won, these stars
cold and metallic: touch one,
old ones die, and one by one

each of the sons try on
the shadows of their fathers
the fathers fall away,

ghostly and pale thin
drawn in a circle
puffed (of) air blown against
the ring of the glass
that hath but a tone
              a tone

as if all, so certain, bring
surprise, a ringing near
their eyes
to rise against
the falling of the curtain

with all determination
to try again, but why?



2.

We had hoped,
and all that hope was
on that day they tried
in unshod feet

-- the trod of supplicants
to a thirsty well --

and which of us who knew,
knew our place, ever knew
when it was done, but hoped,
more's the pity or the grace,
that we didn't, they would
and we could only stand


idle by
idle by

in the shift of these [said] sands

(oh, how lovely that sounds then)

the ring of it that now resounds,
mere stones clink down the sides
that slope away into the night
on a penny's toss of hope

and how easily we might,
in silence, condescend

now it is spare
song in such
thin apparel

but how the people
sway to and fro
on their way
from here to there

and their families collide
in estimated purposes,
looking into wooden boxes,
side-by-side, the coin clinks
with the even-ness of day by day

as we stack them in lots
worn, and worn through,
they recite the tracts of Sisyphus
by heart and by ones or twos
in each backward glance depart.

It was not the rock,
had never been but what was,
what the rock was,

a resistance that had rolled roundish
in some bitterness of great price,
had worn them to the callous bone,
the martyrs rock ground and

pounded into sand
lift by lift the grains sifted
around their feet

a ring of grains, grass grains
built but for a momentary stand
under that aged skin, annealed
hand in hand they stood
in the glazed indifference,

in the ring of the sheaver's clock
picked up a scythe newly whet
and sighed the sigh of dying wheat

scarred and rough
as the mocking moon
with our heals dug in and
did what we did
rocking back and forth



3.

It was a job
we could only throw onto
the scaffold of our bodies
and hope that halfway there,
and hope they might

but to repeat

the sounds we wore,
some in a gesture of gay defense,
others under the great gray tent
of our indifference,

would be driven to the fields
by such ancillary discontents
as we could find

could someday -- half-way from here to there
we would try again -- in wheat or rice

plant our feet,
the millstones in their rows,
watch the tourists
passing overhead

in all that we had thus prepared
for them, in dull gray wear
we weary of their speech

and repeat their speeches
as they come,

and as they go
we ring out sand
from rags

we've twisted in
our callused hands, rung
the gritty warmth from them
by the handsfull passeth over
grain by grain

enternities of sand that
slip, slipping away
into the sleep of glass

and overhead, the tourists
pass this way, to repeat
again, the knell
in its appalling tones

with rags, brown rags
about their feet
they come

by twos this time, by twos
and stand, knell by knell
over the patience of the sand

they kneel and review